GREAT NORTHERN PENINSULA, NL – A Petty Harbour-based group that focuses on getting young people involved with the fishery is hoping to extend its efforts to areas like the Great Northern Peninsula.
Over the past four years, Kimberly Orren of Fishing for Success has been working to see Newfoundland and Labrador’s fishery preserved for the next generation.
“Our fishery is not just food – it’s culture, it’s heritage,” said Orren.
“We’re not just talking about getting young people in the fishery, we’re talking about saving the culture.”
Working out of Petty Harbour, Fishing for Success has used its summer programs to get young people out onto wharves and into boats. The group’s agenda is to rejuvenate their connection to a resource that is vital to the province’s economy, history and culture.
“What is important is that young people growing up have access and can participate in the fishery in some way,” Orren said. “Maybe it will encourage not only future fishermen, but marine biologists or other occupations related to the fishery that will keep them in the province.”
Orren aims to spread the group’s work through the province.
The Northern Peninsula, an area filled with outports and coastal communities where the fishery is vital, is a key location for Fishing for Success initiatives, said Orren.
One of these initiatives is to show the Norwegian documentary Tongue Cutters in the area. The documentary details young people in a fishing village in Norway and how they came to spend their summers cutting out cod tongues for a processing plant.
The film would be shown, and a youth panel would discuss how it affected them, as well as the film’s potential lessons for encouraging youth involvement in Newfoundland and Labrador’s fishery.
Fishing for Success owns an educational license on the documentary, and has previously held a screening and panel at the LSPU Hall in St. John’s. Now the group plans to bring the film across the province, and is looking to get young people from every community involved with the screening.
As well, the group has partnered with Food First NL to write a Fish to School program guide. Orren says the guide’s purpose is not only to get locally caught fish into school cafeterias, but to further encourage a connection to the province’s fish-filled heritage.
“It’s really about bringing culturally significant and traditional foods back into our schools,” she said.
Strains on the current system
At a recent meeting between Department of Fisheries and Oceans representatives and harvesters held at St. Anthony’s Lion’s Club, a young harvester detailed his frustration with current industry guidelines.
Brad Patey said he had to work as a crewman full-time for five years, making only $10,000-15,000 a year from it, to qualify for a core enterprise. To work a full-time job outside of the fishery would disqualify him immediately.
“How can a young man with two kids and a mortgage get into the fishery with the way it’s set up right now,” Patey said at the Dec. 6 meeting. “The way it is now, a man can be an astronaut before he can be a fisherman.”
For harvesters hoping to get into the industry, Orren says the barriers they face are ridiculous.
From the Marine Institute courses to the roughly $250,000-minimum investment it takes to buy an enterprise and a quota, a young person hoping to become a fisher in Newfoundland and Labrador today has a daunting task ahead of them.
As well, the Professional Harvester Certification Board’s guideline that 75 per cent of one’s income has to come from the fishery to qualify for an enterprise means working outside of the fishery to build up an investment is rarely an option.
Orren says simply taking the required courses can be a major obstacle for young people based in the more isolated rural pockets of the island.
“If you have to go to Marine Institute and you’re based in the Northern Peninsula, that can definitely be a problem,” she said.
Orren is also upset to see the province’s Fisheries Advisory Council has no members under the age of 55.
“This is supposed to be a council to advise about the future of the fishery,” Orren said. “Why aren’t there young people on this advisory board?
“If you’re going to talk about the future fishery you need to hear from the people that it will most impact.”
Despite the hurdles in their way, Orren says Fishing for Success will continue to grow and bring its efforts to as many communities as possible.
What keeps the organization going is its conviction that the fishery is a crucial foundation to Newfoundland and Labrador. If the inshore fishery dissolves, it will not only do damage to the province’s economy, but also to the survival of its culture.
“We have to get young people involved with fishing, to get them interested in it,” Orren said. “If nothing is done on this front, the big companies will buy out all the quotas, they’ll send in the big boats from Ottawa and that’ll be the end of it.”